Tenet, Book One: The Foundation (fourth revision)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


The air was warm in the present night scene, classic for early in the growing season. “Let’s head over there!” One man shouted. Another man from this group in a small tent followed up with the previous statement, “Yeah, all eight of us can just march on over and ask if we can negotiate. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Leo.” The statement was directed toward Leo Malen, the man who called this illegal meeting in session on this night. Malen sat in a corner in the tent with his famous thinking face presented to his fellow Kirks. “Hey, let him have his space.” One man said quietly. “He’s thinking.” The man giving this advice to friends was Christoper Phillips, Leo’s closet companion. “Why do we need his approval of anything?” James Phillips passionately asked. “Shut up, boy!” An angry voice from his father came flying back at him. “Yeah, shut up!” Mitchell Kennelly added. Christopher Phillips gave Kennelly a mean and pissed look. “How about we all shut up and leave my father alone so he can have his time?” A demanding question that came from Polaris Malen. James Phillips, Mitchell Kennelly, Hiram Matthews, Simon Morgan and Frederick Newt all followed Polaris out the tent leaving just two remaining.

 Christopher sat in the opposite corner of the tent from the man he had known for his entire life in complete silence, just as he knew Leo liked it. “You know what I want.” Leo broke the silent thinking. “This isn’t about me, not about you, this is about my son. Your son. They’re finally here. They have finally been picked, we knew this was coming someday. I’m not going to speak for you but when it comes to my family in an evil situation like this, you bet I’ll go ape-shit.” The two men sat in silence again but after a few seconds the silence was now broken by the man listening, which was his speciality, “And you know what I want. We’ve been together for too long.” Phillips stopped himself before he could call their connection a friendship bond, then continued. “We don’t see eye to eye every time man, but here and now you’re absolutely right. Our boys and those three hundred other men out there” Phillips pointing outside the tent. “they need a drive, let’s give them all the push.” Malen rolled his eyes slightly at the mention of three hundred men. “I saw that.” Phillips whispered. “What?” Malen asked in confusion. “What about everyone else? You don’t care if they're away from their families too? You’ve never been adamant about a breakout before this season, now all the sudden Aris was drafted you decide this season is the season?” Phillips angrily went at Malen. “I wanted to fight all this time and you’ve never even heard me out once. Candace and Shelby have been gone before this crap started and I wanted the first men free from the beginning.” Malen responded, “And who was the only person picked all eleven times? I had to work my ass off all year round. First here during growing seasons doing this slave work for those pieces of shit and I kept working non-stop back home making sure they survived shelter season without me. Eleven fucking years straight of work all day, every day! And now my son is here? I’m not letting my flesh be a slave for anything or anyone!” Silence had come back between the two men but it was slightly shorter with Phillips coming to his feet and rubbing his hands together. “Let’s call them back and go get those sons of bitches!” 

 

“What are we doing?” Frederick Newt asked the five men with him sitting on Oak Hill. “Are we seriously waiting for two guys to determine what we’re going to do? I thought the whole idea was to evade this kind of shit, but I guess I’m the odd one out here.” Aris stepped right in. “They’ve known each other forever, man and they have been picked so many times. If two people ought to determine our next move it’s my father and his.” Aris pointing at James sitting across from him. The others began small chatter but James broke this silence. “I never thought I’d be here. My dad always told me I’ll be okay and never be taken away.” Aris exploded. “Grow the hell up, Phillips! Look around, you’re here, I’m here! He’s here! He’s here!” Pointing at the circle and back at the resting camp. “It happened, now do something about it. Stop letting yourself be fed wishful thinking.” James was on the verge of tears but used all his strength to hold back “I thought we were just sharing our feelings.” “Hey!” Foreign voices came from nowhere toward the six men on the hill. “Back to the tents immediately, curfew.” “Don’t want to work us all night?” Aris whispered.

A sequence of loudness and light flickering defined the night that took place after all men in camp hit the hay. “Today?” James turned in his pile of sleep hay toward his father waking up in his own pile just a few feet away. “I don’t know, we’re not sure yet.” Christopher responded, turning toward his son. “But soon. I promise.” It was a usual morning, the sweet touch of sun catching woken skin. Water level from the Munch River was high. And screams of Suess guards violently getting every man out of his resting quarters to get ready for another long day of labor. Today, fifty men were assigned tilling more fertile soil alongside the river flowing into the enormous Bull Sea, including newcomers Aris and James. “What do we do?” James asked the man he’d known for his entire life. “How do we till? What does that mean?” Aris exploded. “Fuck! Just watch everyone else. Watch what I do.” James wanted to catch fire quickly on this lifestyle. He and his father lived as part of a decent wealth class in the Kirk Tribe, unlike the seventy percent of Kirks living below quantity standard living. Aris and his father were a part of that poor class and had been for decades. Leo’s father had debts from Suess and other Kirks in terms of loans for food, tools and land to farm. The Malen’s were hurt beyond measure, just like everyone else on Score Island, after the terrible Salf disease outbreak thirteen years ago. The disease had almost taken the life of Aris’ mother Leah. Hard life was all Aris knew and he couldn’t escape it, especially being the one who provided daily meals for he and his mother during growing season when his father was back on his forced labor. James appreciated the well lifestyle he resided in despite losing his mother Candance and sister Shelby. However, was targeted multiple times by other Kirk boys in the poor class. They wanted his life and felt what he had and what they had was not fair. Work was spread out over the wide land divided the labor as equal as possible except seasoned and trusted laborers Leo Malen Christpher Phillips, Mitchell Kennelly, Hiram Matthews, Simon Morgan and Frederick Newt were all together giving off the impression of cutting down trees in the nearby forest for their job today. “What’s the news?” Simon asked Leo and Malen. The two men looked at each other in understanding and Leo took the lead. “Our suffering ends tonight. Yesterday we were labeled “‘tenant farmers’’’ by those damn Suess. Tonight, we take that name and make it Tenet. A group devoted to each other that will define us as one people. Tonight is Tenet’s night!”

Mitchell, Hiram, Simon and Frederick went back to regular posts around the area. “Tonight” each man told his nearby companions in their respective duty for the day. Men gave looks of graciousness of “it’s about time”. Others gave concerned looks. Leo and Christopher remained in the forest a part of each other’s company looking upon their fellow Kirk Tribe members receiving the latest news on their decision. Looking at the men at work, “Not everyone is going to be happy, you know?” Phillips said to Malen. “I know, I know.” Malen said in response. “But this has always been what we ought to do. This is what you always wanted.” “I was up all night thinking about this. Most of the men this season were men I knew.” Phillips said. “They love their tribe and their families. And they don’t want the current order broken.” “What are you trying to say?” Malen angrily asked. “You already told me yes, and you told them yes.” Pointing at the working men below them. “You agreed last night that it’s time. Don’t tell me your privileges of who you are is getting in the way.” Phillips went back to work finishing the tree he began to chop minutes ago. “I have literally nothing to lose now.” Phillips whispered.

Lunch hour as upon the three hundred men. The Suess guards always let the men have their peace and time with each other during chow. Leo sat on the mountain top just outside the forest with twenty other men. “I have a family, you know?” John Miles told Leo while devouring his apple. “I need them and they need me to come back at endseason. Who are you to make a decision on behalf of all of us?” Miles widened his hands in outwords motion. “Your buddy agreed already. I thought you guys respected each other and thought you made good judgments beneficial to the both of you.” Miles responded “Doesn’t mean I’ll agree with him on every little thing though. What do you guys think huh?” Miles asked the other men sitting together. All stayed quiet but Malen jumped in. “We need you guys to talk to us. We need you all to be on our side. This is a big decision we’re making.” “A big decision we’re making?” Miles came back and shouted out trying to be as loud as possible to gain attention. “Or a big decision you are making for us? We are already forced to be here and none of us want to. Now one of us is forcing us to do something we also don’t want to do. I don’t give two shits that you’ve been here more than any of us, that still doesn’t give you the right to choose anything for any one of us.” Leo interrupts. “I can not force you to do anything and I don’t want to. If you want to join our efforts, come to camp square at dinnertime. All I ask is for men to think about it for me.” Malen finished his speech and excused himself from the group.

Simon sat with the largest group eating together today. They sat at Oak Hill with a breathtaking view of the Gibi Valley just south. “I know you boys have heard and had some time to think.” Simon asked the men around him. “So what do you think?” “Hell yes!” A man quietly shouted. Another responded to that, “To hell with this slavery! It’s about damn time!” All the men together at once shouted in uncharted happiness and joy, catching the attention of half a dozen guards and rushed over to the group on the hill. Immediately the cheering stopped, but not in time. The unarmed guards called up fifty others. “Divide now!” One guard demanded. “Too many here, all you know the rules.” “We know what you want, time to know what we want.” Suddenly, the seventy men in Simon’s group shouted again and charged at the guards and threw their bodies at the ones speeding up the steep hill. Everyone’s attention in the camp was taken by the shouting and pushing on Oak Hill including Leo Malen, who was taken completely off guard by what had just transpired, working his back up toward the elevated forest back to the men he just finished eating lunch with. “Come on boys!” Malen announced to the men. “We need you all! Your Kirks need you!”

Simon’s men held strong on Oak Hill and threw every unarmed Suess guard on top of the hill and every now armed guard climbing up, falling at the bottom and were met with death blows by reinforcements of Frederick Newt and Christopher Phillips’ lunch groups and taking their armor and weapons. Hiram Matthews, Mitchell Kennelly and Aris Malen, unexpectedly realizing what was happening, took their men and swarmed the camp square and took out the final guards still alive. Leo Malen took his men to the guards’ housing tents and infiltrated all the shields and spears present in the tents. The skirmish took less than ten minutes and all Suess guards were killed off. Most men cheered in amazing celebration and in sheer shock. Others did not say anything and remained quiet and confused by what had just occurred. “For Tenet!” Leo shouted in the loud celebration, cheers were fading. The three hundred men were confused why he said what he said. “Why tenant?” A couple curious men asked. “That’s tenet.” Leo responded in a shouting voice so everyone could hear. “T.e.n.e.t. We’re no longer going to be known by the Suess as their ‘“tenant’’’ farmers. We are to be known as Tenet. A group devoted to each other that will define us as one people.” Malen’s speech was answered by a long cheer and applause with a mix of undecided faces.

The hundreds of freedmen shared the entire day and night being in each other’s presence at once captivated by feelings of great honor and power. It seemed everyone was together at camp square except a handful of men including James Phillips and John Miles. This group of men met a mile and a half away from camp in the Gibi Valley wanting to be around people they wanted to be surrounded by, even if it meant nothing but breathing noises filled the gathering. “So are we going to do anything or say anything?” A random man asked out of the blue of dead silence. “Do what you want, all of you. You know you don’t need approval from anyone?” John Miles responded. “I’m going home.” Miles stands up. “Any of you are welcome to join.” After Miles began to leave the valley, James got up, looked back at the camp for a moment and followed Miles. Then, fifteen other men looked at each other and followed the two men leading the way back to the Kirk Tribe.

Leo had to go back to his tent alone after an unusually joyful day in the growing season to gather his thoughts. He had been bombarded with happy and friendly pushes from his fellow farmers who were so proud of him holding on for so many years, by being selected in every draft for the eleven of the draft’s existence. The men back at the square called Malen their hero and had selected him as first chief of Tenet. Malen exploded at the idea of having his title be chief. That was a title given to the leader of his homeland, the Kirk Tribe. Malen did not tell anyone we hated the title, this is what drove him into his tent alone. He despised his leader Chief Cameron Rowe back at home based on one problem. Just over eleven years ago, the Kirk Tribe was stormed by their longtime rivals, the Suess Tribe, led by Grand Marshal Nathan Waterbury. He wanted to destroy the Kirks completely since they had been recovering well from the Salf outbreak and made reports of poor recovery for the Suess Tribe and decided out of the blue to infiltrate their food supply and take their ships so they couldn’t trade beyond the Score Island. After the dust settled, he met with Rowe to discuss the situation. “You evil bitch.” Rowe spat at Waterbury as soon as he entered Rowe’s office. “We didn’t do shit to you, we just want to live in peace. But you decide to take our anger or whatever you’re feeling today on us. How about you make some ships and go colonize some other island? Let us be, we already accepted we’d fifty-fifty this place. But I guess you just simply forgot today, what a fool I am.” Waterbury gave a “you done?” look. “Just tell me what you want from us.” Rowe demanded. “You know a fifth of my citizens are dead. We’re losing everything and you have everything. The next island is…” Waterbury looks out the window looking at the amazing view of the Bull Sea. “I don’t even know where we are, man. I need…we need help.” Waterbury finished and Rowe sat in his seat for a few seconds before laughing. “Haha, man you’re good at these now. Haha look at how humble you think you’re being, very cute. I know your reports have been bullshit. You’re not going to fool me or your...king or whatever you call him.” Waterbury tried to hide his delighted smile for a few moments and told Rowe. “Alright, let’s get down to some business. I just got that land along the Munch that leads to the sea, remember?” Rowe didn’t say anything but wiped his hand around a couple times motioning Waterbury to keep talking. “I need some hands, I need some farmers. I need wood collectors, I need hunters. So I was thinking...how about I take some of your guys for the growing season and they work for me and they can go back home for shelter season? But they won’t be the same guys every season, it can be a draft-like thing. We take about three hundred men for the growing. “And why the hell would anyone agree to any of that?” Rowe asked. Waterbury got out of his chair and looked out the same window we looked out minutes ago, “We’ll talk about this matter later.” and headed out of Rowe’s office peacefully. Seconds after his rival exited, Rowe got up and looked out the window to find an enormous army and navy fleet, looked to be at least three times his military size, in the Kirk harbor. Back to his current situation and time, Leo blocked off all the noise celebration outside his tent and fell asleep.

 


Submitted: August 16, 2021

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